First, some preliminary comments about recruiting and leveling.
a) Try out new recruits first and check for “dealbreaker” traits. Asthmatic and Dastard are particularly nasty and should always be avoided; Clubfooted is a no-go on builds which need to be mobile; Irrational, Pessimist and Superstitious will harm any build which is meant to engage in melee and thus suffer frequent morale checks or be targeted by enemy mind spells. Finally, there are a number of traits which reduce your attributes – these may or may not be deal-breakers depending on whether the respective attributes are relevant for the build you’re aiming for, or whether you can outweigh these negatives with good traits, good starting values or particularly good talents.
b) When assessing whether a character is viable for a given role, look to his attributes, specifically talent star distribution and starting values. What exactly you should be looking for here depends on each individual build. Remember that each talent star increases the average gain of that attribute by 0.5 points per level up. Thus every talent star is equivalent to an additional 5 points in that attribute by the time you hit level 11, provided you level said attribute consistently. Backgrounds matter since they affect the starting range of your attributes.
(As for the defense stats, anything above zero can be considered “good” for the cheap backgrounds.)
Of course, some backgrounds may have trouble rolling this high, while others should be expected to roll quite a bit higher since they are also more expensive. Not all attributes are relevant for all builds. I will include in the build guide which attribute you should be looking for “good” starting values in, and which should have talent stars. Also keep an eye out for beneficial traits which increase these stats.
In general, you will want to spend most of your points leveling up those which i will call “Primary” attributes for each build. These should also be the ones which have talent stars. Every build will have three such primary attributes, listed in order of relevance. Sometimes you may need to spend points getting a secondary attribute up, at least to a certain minimum value. There are certain HP, Resolve and Fatigue thresholds that no build should fall under, some even requiring quite a bit more.
Furthermore, when you increase a secondary attribute you will have to skip putting points in one of a character’s primary attributes. Thus, if possible, try to do this when you roll low in one of the less important or already sufficiently leveled primaries. However, refrain from putting points into attributes which you don’t need simply because you rolled poorly on that level-up for one of your primary stats, as this messes up your expected average that you should be looking to reach by level 11.
The values your attributes should reach by level 11 depend on the role of each build, but also how lucky you are with your recruited characters’ starting values and how much you are willing to spend for more expensive backgrounds. In this guide i will assume the backgrounds you will be recruiting are in the price category of the Hunter or below. With this in mind, there are some general guidelines you can follow for values you should be aiming for when leveling:
- Try to aim for around 80 HP on most of your bros (after Colossus). Archers can do with 70, while Duelists and Two-Handers may require around 90 or more.
- Try to have at least 55 Resolve on any character that is likely to be engaged in melee. Defensive Shield Bro builds may need to go over 60. Backline builds like the Polearm Bro can do with 50, while Archers generally shouldn’t need more than 40. Bannermen should go as high as possible.
- Builds which use a lot of Fatigue will need more of a reserve here: Archers will need around 90Fatigue or more, but also Two-Handers and Duelists wielding Orc Weapons should have around 80 Fatigue after armor. Most others can do with around 70, while the least Fatigue intensive, the Polearm Bros, can function well even with 60.
- Initiative is generally an attribute you can ignore, the only build where it matters is the Dodge Duelist, in which case go as high as your other attributes’ demands will allow.
- Melee Skill (for melee builds) and Ranged Skill (for ranged builds) can and should go as high as you can possibly get them, more is always better. However, some builds may wish to prioritize other attributes instead, e.g. the Shield Bro may want to sacrifice some Melee Skill in Favor of Melee Defense or Resolve if there are not enough points to go around. The Hybrid will want to prioritize Ranged over Melee most of the time, and vice versa for the Bannerman.
- Melee Defense should also be as high as you can get it on all builds which are meant to engage in melee. It is absolutely crucial you do not skimp on this as you will need to be able to reliably dodge attacks even when debuffed or when up against particularly accurate enemies.
- Ranged Defense will be the attribute which most of your builds will struggle to find points to invest in. However, good values to try to aim for are around 10-15 for frontline builds (Shield Bros need it less than Two-Handers or Duelists), and around 35 for backline builds. Though with some lucky rolls and some of the more high tier character backgrounds you may even be able to get your shieldless frontliners up to 20.
As for the Student perk, it is first and foremost a necessity when your build calls for only one Tier 1 perk and no Tier 2 perks, thus letting you skip to Tier 3 without wasting a perk point. Depending on whether you get lucky with high starting HP characters, some builds may be able to skip Colossus. In this case taking Student will be a must. Secondly, Student will get you to level 11 faster, but there is a trade-off in combat efficiency and particularly survivability that you incur when delaying your perks by one level. If you’re feeling confident you can keep your characters alive, take it.
Now on to the actual builds:
The Shield Bro
- Primary Attributes: Melee Defense, Fatigue, Melee Skill.
- Secondary Attributes: Resolve, HP, Ranged Defense.
- Recommended Talent Stars: Melee Defense, Fatigue and Melee Skill.
- Recommended Starting Attributes: Good Resolve, Fatigue and HP; decent Melee Skill (at least 50).
Note that, with the exception of the Sergeant, this is the build for which Resolve is the most important, as he will need to be able to be engaged by multiple enemies at once and stand his ground. It may be important enough to prioritize leveling it over Melee Skill, at least up to a certain point. For an even more defensive build, put more points in Resolve and Ranged Defense at the cost of some Melee Skill.
Talent Stars in Melee Defense and Fatigue are a must, ideally even 2 or 3 Stars. Talent Stars in Melee Skill are optional and there is nothing wrong with only having 1 Star here or entirely elsewhere (e.g. Resolve).
- Colossus – Always take this perk on every build, unless you have a specific reason not to. It is a lifesaver in the beginning of the game and it will save you having to invest points into HP later on when faced with enemies which do direct HP damage such as Goblins using Puncture, Ancient Priests using Miasma clouds, etc. Without Colossus you can very easily lose characters to such armor bypassing attacks.
- Pathfinder – A must for any build that expects to move around a lot, it can be a nightmare fighting in swamps and forests without it, and it provides a substantial advantage when traversing elevation, snow etc.
- Shield Expert – Not only will this increase the defense that shields provide, it will significantly increase their durability vs Split Shield attacks.
- Brawny – This build should be very heavily armored, the heavier armor the better, and it will need enough fatigue to use Shield Wall and still be able to attack.
- Rotation – THE lifesaver skill. A bro can use it to swap himself out of melee or save another bro by swapping himself in.
- Weapon Mastery – Swords have decent damage, low fatigue cost and increased to-hit chance; Flails are weaker in damage, especially against armor, but can be situationally useful in getting around shields; Axes and Maces do well against armored opponents (with Axes being quite a bit stronger than Maces in terms of general damage) and their special abilities can certainly come in handy in some situations; Hammers are a dedicated anti-armor weapon, while Cleavers are excellent against unarmored opponents. Pretty much any one-handed melee weapon is good here except for the Spear, which is too weak in the late game (though an early game Spearwall has its uses). Try to have a good mix of weapons in your mercenary band to cover all needs.
- Underdog – This build will frequently be engaged in combat with multiple opponents, thus negating the surround bonus the enemy gets is essential for increasing survivability.
- Battle Forged – The heavier the armor you wear the better this perk will be. Even if you think your armor is heavy enough, it’s not. Get even more armor.
- Backstabber – This perk will help mitigate the slightly lower Melee Skill of the Shield Bro when engaging enemies together with other bros. Particularly useful when surrounding and daggering down enemies for their armor.
- Player’s Choice – Since there are no more must-have perks for this build, the last perk point can be assigned according to personal preference. I recommend considering
- Lone Wolf for situations when a Shield Bro needs to split off from the group and hold off multiple enemies alone. Alternatively,
- Recover could be used to allow more spamming of Shieldwall;
- Taunt could be used by a particularly defensive Shield Bro to protect weaker allies, though the skill can be notoriously unreliable at times;
- Quick Hands could be used to swap in a second shield when the first one breaks;
- Indomitable could further increase survivability; or you may consider picking a
- 2nd Weapon Mastery to have some versatility and weapon choice for different opponents.
Any of these choices are perfectly fine.
A more defensive variant of the Shield Bro can even forego Backstabber and/or the Weapon Mastery in favor of Taunt and Recover.
A more offensively focused variant of the Shield Bro could take Beserk, possibly also Killing Frenzy instead of some of the more defensive perks (Colossus, Shield Expert, Underdog), though i don’t recommend it. Taking Recover would be almost mandatory as such a build will have an exceptionally high fatigue consumption. Perhaps with a character with the Iron Lungs trait this variant could be made more viable.
Using two-handed weapons in close combat, this build will be the primary damage dealer in the late game. It is also – with the possible exception of the Duelist – the most demanding build, needing both exceptionally good starting attributes/talent stars and sufficiently heavy armor to be able to survive. This build starts out weak and will need to be leveled in the back ranks or as a shield wielder initially.
- Primary Attributes:Melee Skill, Melee Defense, Fatigue.
- Secondary Attributes:Ranged Defense, Resolve, HP.
- Recommended Talent Stars:Melee Defense, Fatigue and Melee Skill.
- Recommended Starting Attributes:Good Fatigue, Melee Skill, Resolve and HP; if possible, at least some points in the Defenses.
For this build, it is essential to have high starting Melee Skill and Fatigue. This is the build for which it will most likely be worth recruiting the more expensive backgrounds, as it can greatly benefit from additional starting points in either Melee or Ranged Defense.
This build requires at least 2, preferably 3 Stars in Melee Defense, as well as some in Fatigue and Melee Skill. This build’s greatest weakness is its lack of Ranged Defense so don’t forget to put some points into this secondary attribute every once in a while.
- Colossus – Same as for the Shield Bro. If anything even more essential here.
- Pathfinder – Pathfinder is indispensable on any build that uses two-handed weapons.
- Brawny – This is another build which requires the heaviest armor possible.
- Rotation – Not only does rotation increase survivability, it often also allows you to get into positions which you otherwise couldn’t without moving two tiles, thus letting you move and attack in the same turn.
- Weapon Mastery – Swords are the most versatile due to having both a line attack and a sweep attack, and they have decent damage vs both armored and unarmored targets. Axes have the highest single target damage output due to their special mechanics (head+body hits, higher critical hits), however their round swing is only situationally useful and too fatigue intensive most of the time. Maces have decent anti-armor capabilities and excel at controlling single targets through Stun and Daze. Hammers are excellent against heavy armor and their sweep attack makes them almost as versatile as the Sword, though its knockback can sometimes be more hindrance than help. Despite their ability to get around shields, Flails are not worth using as their overall damage output is too low. Finally, the Cleaver stands out as potentially the most interesting choice, if you can get your hands on a Crypt Cleaver, which only uses 4 AP per swing, allowing you to hit twice, or even three times with Beserk, though this will quickly drain your fatigue!
- Underdog – The Two-Hander Bro will frequently be fighting multiple enemies at the same time, thus making this perk almost a necessity. It is theoretically a possibility to switch this out for Backstabber (at your own peril!) if you have a particularly high Defense but low Melee Skill bro.
- Battle Forged – This build lives and dies by its armor.
- Beserk – This will allow you to potentially hit twice in a turn or move, hit, move. For two-handed weapons this perk is a must-have.
- Killing Frenzy/Recover – Choose between these two, depending on whether you want to have more short term burst damage capability or more long term staying power.
- Defensive Perk – This build is lacking in perk points to cover all possible defenses, so you will have to choose whether you want:
- Reach Advantage, if you are confident in your ability to hit the enemy and prefer to build up Melee Defense using Reach Advantage stacks. This is more useful for Swords and Hammers which can hit multiple targets at once. A build with Reach Advantage needs more Melee Skill but can afford to have somewhat lower Melee Defense in favor of increased Ranged Defense.
- Indomitable, used together with Recover it can dramatically increase the survivability of this build. Particularly useful, perhaps even necessary, when facing exceptionally dangerous, high damage foes.
- Or Anticipation, if you’re lacking in Ranged Defense and find yourself peppered with arrows and bolts more than you would like to be. This is the option i would recommend least however, since most of the strongest enemies in the game are melee oriented. For fights against Goblins, just bring shields (or better yet, Shield Bros). For fights against Bandits and Noble Houses, simply close quickly into melee and the enemy archers will focus your backranks instead.
If using Fatigue intensive weapons like the Orcish Man-Splitter or the Crypt Cleaver, it is advisable to use a character with the Iron Lungs trait.
The Archer is a necessary part of a well-balanced mercenary band. He fulfills such support roles as picking off highly dangerous but weakly armored enemies like the Orc Beserker or two-handed weapon wielders before they reach your lines, taking out potentially deadly enemy ranged attackers like Marksmen and Arbalests, sniping enemy spellcasters like Necromancers or Hexen, disposing of weaker targets on the flanks when your line is threatened with envelopment, as well as dealing with injured and fleeing enemies. Though probably his most importantly function is in taking out Goblins and their Shamans from a safe distance where you don’t have to fight against constant vines, nets, daggers being slipped under your armor and showers of throwing weapons.
- Primary Attributes:Ranged Skill, Fatigue, Ranged Defense.
- Secondary Attributes:HP, possibly Initiative.
- Recommended Talent Stars:Ranged Skill, Fatigue and Ranged Defense.
- Recommended Starting Attributes:Very Good Ranged Skill, Good Fatigue and HP.
This build should increase Ranged Skill and Fatigue above all else. This is not a build that should ever get into melee, and if engaged, make sure to get them out ASAP. This also means, no standing directly behind your front lines when fighting enemies which can knock you around such as Orc Warriors and Unholds. Also, they are virtually useless in a fight against the Ancient Dead – use the Polearm Bro here instead for backline DPS, or build them as Hybrid Bros.
High Talent Stars in Ranged Skill are mandatory, as well as at least one or two in Fatigue. Stars in Ranged Defense are nice but not essential. Leveling HP is also great for Nimble builds such as the Archer, since it can protect this bro in case something goes wrong and he is engaged in close combat.
- Colossus – Especially useful on a Nimble bro.
- Fast Adaptation – Particularly necessary against very dodgy opponents like Goblins or Master Archers even into the late game, but also good in the early game when your Archers don’t yet have very high Ranged Skill.
- Bullseye – This will allow you to much more reliably hit targets that are in cover. Oftentimes enemy ranged attackers or spellcasters will hide behind obstacles or tanky minions.
- Anticipation – Your Archers will be most often targeted by the enemy’s ranged attackers once your front line has engaged into close combat. Even with Nimble, the Archer should be getting hit as seldom as possible since their armor cannot absorb much damage. For bros with exceptionally high starting Ranged Defense or high numbers of defensive Talent Stars, it could perhaps be replaced for a more offensive perk such as Head Hunter.
- Bow Mastery – The Archer’s defining perk. Not only does it reduce the fatigue incurred when firing the bow, it also increases your maximum range by 1.
- Footwork – Instead of Rotation, the Archer Bro uses Footwork to stay out of trouble and disengage when threatened. This will save many Archer lives.
- Nimble – To make up for his lack of armor, the Archer Bro can use Nimble to magnify his HP pool. *(See below for recommended armor.)
- Beserk – The Archer’s larger freedom in choice of targets across the battlefield allows him to maximize the use of this perk by consistently looking to last-shot wounded enemies. This will use a lot of fatigue and will require some use of Recover over longer fights.
- Killing Frenzy – This perk synergizes especially well with Beserk.
- Recover – The Archer will go through a lot of fatigue, whether triggering Beserk or using Footwork to escape danger, Recover is always useful.
The only recommended background for this build is the Hunter – all others are inferior.
Furthermore, I advise to resist the urge to take Dodge and/or Overwhelm on Archers. I find they are generally not worth it and the perk point better spent elsewhere. Both of these depend on having high Initiative to make the most of them, yet the Archer will use a lot of Fatigue over the course of a fight, thus making these perks most useful only at the very beginning of combat. If you do decide to use these perks, the Archer will need to invest some points in Initiative.
*Recommended Armor: Noble Mail (160 Durability, 15 Fatigue) and Sallet Helmet (120 Armor, 5 Fatigue, 0 Visibility Penalty). The 20 total fatigue leave you with 53% damage reduction from Nimble out of the maximum 60% at 15 fatigue.
The Bannerman Bro
This Bro keeps the other Bros from falling apart and fleeing. He is necessary against Geists and very useful in wielding the Banner to boost his comrades’ resolve against Hexen. His passive Resolve boosting is also of use against the Mighty Roar skill of Orc Warlords and the Ancient Priest’s Horrify. When not using the Rally skill he can serve as a supportive backrank damage dealer with either Polearm or Crossbow.
- Primary Attributes:Resolve, Ranged Defense, Fatigue.
- Secondary Attributes:Melee Skill, Ranged Skill, HP or Melee Defense.
- Recommended Talent Stars:Resolve, Ranged Defense, and Melee Skill or Ranged Skill.
- Recommended Starting Attributes:Very Good Resolve (50+), Good Fatigue and HP; if possible, decent Melee and Ranged Skills.
This build should increase above all its Resolve. The higher the better. Ranged Defense will primarly ensure that the Bannerman does not get sniped by enemy archer fire, though this doesn’t need to be leveled as high as for archers since the Bannerman can be more heavily armored. Leveling up Fatigue is also important to ensure that the Bannerman can actually use the fatigue-intensive Rally skill a decent number of times. Furthermore, some Melee Skill or Ranged Skill should also be given.
The Bannerman should have at least 2, preferrably 3 Stars in Resolve. The other two recommended Talents are not as essential, and either one of them can be replaced by Talents in Fatigue or Ranged Skill and this build will still turn out just fine.
- Colossus – He may not be Nimble but he can still benefit from more HP, thus allowing him to put more attribute points elsewhere.
- Fortified Mind – The Bannerman’s Resolve needs to be as high as it can get.
- Quick Hands – Allowing the Bannerman to switch between his Banner and a Crossbow or better Polearm without AP or Fatigue cost.
- Rally the Troops – A Bro is not a Bannerman without it.
- Anticipation – This perk allows the Bro to occasionally forego increasing Ranged Defense and invest in other attributes instead.
- Recover – The Bannerman will not have many points to invest in Fatigue. Recover is a good choice for longer fights when Rally will have to be used many times.
- Polearm Mastery – Allowing the Bro to cut down a little on the Fatigue use from attacking with his Banner or another Polearm, as well as increasing his movement range by 1 tile while still being able to attack during the same turn due to the reduced AP cost. Keep in mind that the Billhook is by far a better weapon than the Banner and should be used whenever possible instead.
- Crossbow Mastery – Sometimes you need a little more ranged DPS. The Bannerman, though by no means expert in ranged combat, can at least get one or two shots off at approaching enemies before switching to his Banner or Polearm.
- Footwork – A Bannerman built in this fashion will be vulnerable to melee. Use footwork to get him out of trouble. A tankier Bannerman can use Rotation instead.
- Backstabber – The Bannerman cannot afford to put many points into Melee Skill, and Backstabber can compensate for this, especially since most of his targets will usually be engaged in melee with other bros.
A more tanky, heavily armored variant of the Bannerman which can better survive being engaged in melee can pick Brawny and Battle Forged instead of Crossbow Mastery and Anticipation. This allows him to use very heavy armor indeed, though remember that this requires increased Fatigue and heavier focus on melee abilities.
The Polearm Bro
This Bro is a dependable backrank damage dealer. He can hit consistently and is tanky enough to hold the flanks, at least for a while, against weaker enemies.
- Primary Attributes:Melee Skill, Melee Defense, Ranged Defense.
- Secondary Attributes:HP, Fatigue.
- Recommended Talent Stars:Melee Skill, Melee Defense and Ranged Defense.
- Recommended Starting AttributesGood Melee Skill, Fatigue and HP.
This build should mainly seek to increase its Melee Skill in order to be able to hit enemies reliably. There is no need to have a very high Fatigue pool for the Polearm Bro since Polearms are comparatively low in fatigue consumption. Mainly he should have enough Fatigue to be able to wear the heaviest armor available to the mercenary company after equipping its frontline Bros. The rest of the points can be distributed among the two Defense attributes, making the Polearm Bro resistent against both ranged and melee attacks.
The Polearm Bro does not require many Talent Stars and even a second rate character can become a Polearm Bro with just one or two Stars in Melee Skill, though Stars in the Defenses are also beneficial.
- Pathfinder – Together with Polearm Mastery, Pathfinder can drastically increase the mobility of this otherwise rather sluggish build.
- Backstabber – The Polearm Bro will mainly engage enemies from behind the frontline. Backstabber will make him a truly reliable damage dealer.
- Anticipation – Due to his lack of shield, this build must either increase Ranged Defense or take Anticipation. Taking this perk frees up points for other attributes.
- Rotation – The Polearm bro is tanky enough to be able to rotate into the place of another Bro to save their life in an emergency, though he should not be left in this position for long.
- Polearm Mastery – The reduction in Fatigue consumption comes in handy for Beserk, and the reduced AP cost opens up many tactical opportunities.
- Beserk – Due to the Polearm’s relatively low Fatigue cost to swing, Beserk is a very viable choice, significantly increasing this build’s potential damage output.
- Battle Forged – The Polearm Bro will rely on heavy armor to tank damage when he is forced to engage in melee.
- Killing Frenzy – If Beserk can be triggered, Killing Frenzy will further increase the damage done by the Polearm bro.
- Brawny – Brawny will very likely be necessary to keep fatigue at reasonable levels while still wearing the kinds of heavy armor that the Polearm Bro will aim to use by the endgame.
- Colossus – The Polearm Bro is not Nimble, and is likely to be targeted by armor piercing attacks from enemy crossbows. More HP will also help him survive longer under the Miasma cloud cast by an Ancient priest.
Variants of the Polearm bro can use Polehammers or Longaxes instead of Polearms, taking the appropriate Mastery perk instead. These do NOT get the AP benefit of Polearm Mastery though, making them less mobile, and they do not offer major advantages in damage over the Billhook.
The Polehammer’s anti-armor attack is overkill against all but the heaviest armors, and its basic attack is only slightly better against armor than the Billhook’s while being significantly worse against unarmored opponents. The Longaxe does rather poorly against armor compared to the Billhook while its damage against unarmored is only slightly higher. It can be useful to use the Longaxe to break shields, though by the late game your Melee Skill should be high enough across the board such that breaking most shields would be a waste of action points which could have been better spent doing damage.
If you do not have any Hybrid Archers, nor many other builds which use Axes, it may be useful to take Axe Mastery instead of one of the more defensive perks like Colossus or Anticipation, in order to be able to quickly break the shields of Schrats, and – if your Melee Skill isn’t high enough to reliably bypass their Shieldwall yet – of Ancient Legionares and Noble House Footmen.
The (Bladed) Pike can be a good alternative to the Billhook for fights against particularly dodgy but lightly armored opponents due to its bonus to hit.
The Hybrid is a notable variant of the Archer that is more versatile at the expense of sacrificing some performance in ranged combat. Its primary function is to act as a support shield breaker and occasional backrank damage dealer in cases where using the bow is not an option (such as against the Ancient Dead).
- Primary Attributes:Ranged Skill, Fatigue, Melee Skill.
- Secondary Attributes:Ranged Defense, HP.
- Recommended Talent Stars:Ranged Skill, Fatigue and Melee Skill.
- Recommended Starting Attributes:Good Ranged Skill, Melee Skill, Fatigue and HP.
This build requires rather high starting values for quite a few attributes. In particular you will need a background which can roll high both on Ranged and on Melee Skill. The sacrifice will come at the expense of some Ranged Defense and/or Fatigue.
The usual Stars in Ranged Skill and Fatigue that an Archer requires are necessary, in addition, Talent in Melee Skill can be very useful, though a high starting value can suffice instead.
- Fast Adaptation – To hit those dodgy targets.
- Colossus – To make the most out of Nimble.
- Bullseye – To hit obscured targets.
- Anticipation – To avoid getting hit by enemy ranged.
- Bow Mastery – What else for an archer?
- Footwork – Get out of trouble.
- Quick Hands – To switch to the Axe.
- Axe Mastery – This is the main feature of this build, the Hybrid uses the Longaxe to break enemy shields and damage enemies resistant to his ranged attacks. If you have other ways of dealing with shields, consider using Polearm Mastery instead.
- Backstabber – Since this build will never have particularly high Melee Skill (as you should be focusing mainly on Ranged Skill and Fatigue), Backstabber serves to make it a little more viable.
- Nimble – The main way in which the Hybrid mitigates damage, both ranged and, in case of emergency, melee.
Again, the best background for this build is the Hunter, though a few others which roll high in both Melee and Ranged could work if you are willing to sacrifice some Ranged Skill. In particular, Bowyer, Sellsword, Witchhunter, Squire, Beast Slayer and Poacher could make decent Hybrids with enough Talent Stars in Ranged Skill.
For a purely shield-breaking variant of the Hybrid with little to no Melee capability, but which regains most of the ranged damage output of the Archer, replace Backstabber and Anticipation with Beserk and either Killing Frenzy or Recover. Instead of Melee Skill, level up Ranged Defense to compensate for the lack of Anticipation.
The Hybrid uses the same equipment as the Archer: Noble Mail and Sallet Helmet.
The Duelist is a highly specialized build and the one which requires the most exceptional character. The Duelist will be able to engage enemies in melee and do significant damage with only a one handed weapon and no shield or heavy armor, relying instead on his superior Dodging abilities and his Nimble perk to survive. The most common Duelist build uses a Sword with Riposte, though other types of duelists, such as Axe Duelists (using a one-handed orc axe), or Fencing Sword Duelists are possible.
- Primary Attributes:Melee Defense, Melee Skill, Initiative.
- SecondaryAttributes:HP, Ranged Defense, Resolve.
- Recommended Talent Stars:Melee Defense, Melee Skill and Initiative.
- Recommended Starting Attributes:Very Good Melee Skill (>60), Good Fatigue, Resolve, Initiative and HP; some starting Melee Defense and/or Ranged Defense, as well as the Iron Lungs Trait.
The Duelist MUST have the Iron Lungs trait in order to be able to use his skills without too quickly draining his Fatigue, which would lower his Initiative and the efficiency of Dodge (and Lunge). Furthermore, he should start with at least 5-10 Melee Defense and/or Ranged Defense, have high Melee Skill and Initiative and a good starting pool of both HP and Fatigue as well as at least decent Resolve.
In addition to the high Talents required in Melee Defense and Melee Skill, if the character does not have high Talent in Initiative, it may be better to level up Ranged Defense and Melee Defense individually instead, as each point in Initiative only translates to 0.15 Points in each of the Defenses respectively. The Initiative focused Duelist is particularly adapted to use the Fencing Sword, whose Lunge damage scales with Initiative. If you are building a non-initiative-focused Duelist, the third primary stat should be HP. This variant is explained below.
- Colossus – Together with Nimble this will be the primary way in which the Duelist absorbs damage.
- Dodge – The Duelist uses his high Initiative to Dodge attacks, both at range and in close combat.
- Pathfinder – The Duelist needs to be highly mobile and not be impeded/fatigued by terrain.
- Lone Wolf – Greatly increasing the Duelist’s abilities when out on his own. Take Backstabberinstead if you plan on sticking closer to the main group of Bros.
- Sword Mastery – Reducing both the Fatigue cost of the basic attack, which the Duelist will use up to three times in a turn with Beserk, as well as that of the Riposte skill, which a Sword wielding Duelist will be wanting to use in combination with his superior Dodging skill to inflict large amounts of damage, especially when (partially) surrounded. Replace this with the appropriate Mastery if you’re using another weapon instead.
- Underdog – The Duelist, especially one using Riposte as his primary tactic, will frequently be engaged by multiple enemies at the same time. The Duelist should nevertheless not allow himself to be fully surrounded since the enemy will get increased to-hit bonuses if adjacent to him on all sides. Alternatively, for a non-Riposte Duelist wishing to avoiding getting surrounded, consider getting Footwork instead. In case of emergency the Duelist can use this to escape an unfavorable engagement. Or, switch it out for Rotation if you plan on using the Duelist closer to your main group of Bros to protect their flank instead of as a Lone Wolf.
- Beserk – A Duelist with Iron Lungs will be able to make significantly more use of this perk than other one handed weapon wielders. Not as essential for Riposte focused Duelists, but still useful.
- Nimble – When the Duelist does get hit, Nimble will serve to avert most of the damage.
- Duelist – The namesake of the build, this perk will increase the amount of damage which bypasses opponents’ armor.
- Killing Frenzy – In order to maximize the damage done by a Duelist with Beserk and especially one managing to kill many foes with Riposte.
A Duelist without Iron Lungs may wish to take Recover instead of either Killing Frenzy or Beserk, reducing his damage output but ensuring he does not tire himself out.
The HP Tank variant of the Duelist is adapted for those who do not wish to rely on Initiative and Dodge. This Duelist cannot use the Fencing Sword and should have HP as his third primary attribute and talent, and level it accordingly. This Duelist aims to make the most out of Nimble by using his HP to absorb hits. Instead of Dodge, this Duelist uses Indomitable to avert damage in an emergency. This duelist can afford to use more fatiguing weapons.
Equipment: As close as possible to 15 fatigue penalty from armor, to maximize the benefit of Nimble. The Sallet Helmet and Noble Mail are also excellent choices here until the mercenary company can find named armor better than this generic gear. The ideal equipment for a Riposte Duelist would be the Davkul Armor Set and the Legendary Weapon „Reproach of the Old Gods“.
An early game mercenary band will want to focus mainly on dependable Shield Bros with a few Polearms and as many good Archers as they can get, as well as – if available – a Bannerman.
By the mid game you should be transitioning into recruiting and leveling at least a few candidates for Two-Handers. By now you should have a decent number of good Archers/Hybrids to carry you.
The end game should be focused on transitioning away from the Shield Bro to the Two-Hander Bro. The exception being of course Goblin fights, where you will want to have as close as possible to a half Shield Bro, half Archer group to take them on. Against most enemies some Archers will continue to be extremely useful.
Fights against large numbers of Orc Warriors will require you to restrict yourself to only a few Archersand almost no Shield Bros (whose shields would frequently get destroyed by the Orcs), and instead use a large number of Two-Handers and some Polearms.
Against the Ancient Dead the required party composition involves a handful of Shield Bros to hold their position at key locations while the main bulk of your group, your Two-Hander Bros, will progressively sweep away the enemy, with the help of a few Polearms to replace the Archers who would otherwise be virtually useless against the Ancient Dead.
Feel free to mix in one or two Duelists according to your personal preference.
This is by no means a complete list, and there are of course a number of other viable builds that i may be missing – a dedicated Crossbow/Throwing Weapon build is one i could imagine as being potentially interesting. You could also build characters which are more specialized to deal with very particular types of enemies that you find you have difficulties against, or you can simply experiment with incorporating some of the less common perks into your builds every now and again.
In addition, some of the recommended configurations of attributes and talents which i have suggested here may be difficult to find, and it may take a good number of tries before you find suitable candidates. You will have to settle for less than optimal characters and do the best you can to compensate for their weaknesses. You will certainly need to use a number of early game disposable bros as throwaway characters before you arrive at a more permanent composition for your mercenary band.